Monday, February 25, 2013

His Time

I walked along the road the other morning, head whirling with a load of information and thoughts and a billion other things. Classes to teach, yes--but then, that's not for another hour, and really, it'll be okay. I have material to go over with all of them.

Foot hits gravel, dust flies. With each pound, a question, and a surrender. Why? It doesn't matter, really... Lord, You take it... But why?, it shouldn't matter. Take it from me, Father...

The thought of only three weeks left...less than three weeks now...filled me, and my heart not only sank, but another question surfaced again. Why even bother?

I turned around at ToMahWa's place, and headed back up the dirt road. The same question grew louder, and louder... Why bother?  

And then I stopped. Just past my heel, behind me, my eye had caught sight of something strange. I picked it up...and stared in wonder at what lay in my hand.

There is no need to say that amazement washed over me and filled me with a sense of the Lord's voice and presence, louder than ever I had heard it before.

I love you, Child. I am working in you to will and to do of My good pleasure. Cling to that red cord, for it is the only thing that will get you through. Cling to Me... And you will "meet an expected end."

I can't argue with that kind of logic.
That kind of love.
That kind of patience.

I've found heart-shaped rocks before. They were just natural occurences--things that I could see a heart in if I looked at it right. They often were clean, sometimes smooth. Rarely broken. I've given such things as gifts to people before.

My 'gift from heaven' is rough. It's uneven. It's dirty and dusty. It's even broken. I'd ashamed to offer something like that to someone.

It's me.

I see myself in that simple stone.

I'm far from perfect. There's pieces missing. I'm broken. I'm really not worth giving to anyone, let alone the King of the Universe.

And yet, I am reminded of what the angel told Mercy in Pilgrim's Progress: "This is not how God the Father doth see thee."

"Chief of sinners though I be..."

Yes, He loves me. Oh, so much. 

And even though I'm not perfect, He's promised to make me beautiful in His time. Perfect in His time. Worth His time.

And this place, this land, these people, have helped me grow so much. So much closer to that "expected end" the Lord wants to bring me to. I owe so much to Thailand, to the Karen, to Sunshine Orchards, to my students.

...I get to repay all they've done for me by going home.

It's getting overwhelming to think of leaving. Just last Friday, Tee Nee Too asked me what I was doing on Sunday.

"I go to Mae Sot."
"Mae Sot, Teacher? Why?"
"Uhm...passport. You know?"
"Ohhh...yes, yes."
"I have to go to Burma and come back, or I get in very much trouble."
"Yes. You come back?" He motioned to the school.
"Yes, I go, come back"--and then added, a little sadly--"and then in three weeks I go home."
Blank expression, then light of understanding. "Home? You go America?"
I nod.
Tee Nee Too makes a face, very like a grimace. "Ugh, Teacher!"

My 7th graders did the AY program on Sabbath. For one of their special musics, they sang "Did You Ever Talk to God?" I've been teaching it to them for a couple of weeks. They did so wonderfully, I couldn't contain myself when they were finished.

Maw Shwe Way

Shaw Nay Moo, aka second class terrorist

Saw Pa Noe, otherwise known as class brain and teacher's pet

Tee Nay Too, also referred to as my main antagonist

All my seventh graders

Eh K'luh Too

Maw Jo Nigh and Saw Day Day, both class clowns

After the program, Tee Nee Too asked me, "Teacher, good? You like?"
"Yes, I like very much. You did a good job!" A big smile crossed my face.
And then, as he walked away... "You're welcome."

The smile turned into a laugh. Where'd he pick that up? Probably from the same place that taught him how to say he was "going bananas."

After AY a bunch of my kids wanted pictures with me... And even though it was dark and I was already late to be at something else, I couldn't say no.

Nala Moo on the left, Maw Shwe Way on the right

Maw Jo Nigh and Maw Shwe Way

Tha Tha Aye, Shaw Nay Moo, Eh Do Moo, and Maw Jo Nigh

Maw Jo Nigh and Shaw Nay Moo

Oh, these boys...

My seventh grade girls are so opposite to my seventh grade boys... sweet girls.

Tha Tha Aye

These are only a few of the precious faces I've come to know and love since being here. It's hard to imagine life without Tee Nee Too's teasing, Saw Pa Noe's calm perfectionism, Saw Eh Soe's explosive hillarity, Mu Wa Wa's incessant laughter, Maw Soe Thay's naughtiness.

Soon, it won't be imagination, however. It'll be reality.

Last night, a bunch of boys came up to the house for medicine and other assistance. A couple of my boys were here, and one of them suddenly asked me something about leaving. I had to tell them that yes, less than three weeks, and I will go.

"Home to America?" Shaw Nay Moo motioned over his shoulder with a look of consternation.
I nodded.
Maw Soe Thay, enthroned in our chair, asked, "Teacher, when you come back?"
I shook my head. "I do not know if I ever come back."
Shaw Nay Moo's look of consternation turned to open shock. "You not come back?"
I shrugged, shook my head. "I do not know."
Shaw Nay Moo's face fell and in the next instant, he covered his face with his hands. "Oh, Teacher, I cry!"

He was kidding. But the point remains.

Maw Soe Thay asked, "Why you no come back?"
Anna clarified that I want to come back, but had no money.
"Ohh." Maw Soe Thay nodded. "Teacher, you go America, you work very hard."
I laughed. "Work and get money so I can come back?"
Maw Soe Thay grinned. "Yes Teacher!"
"You want me to come back?" I ventured teasingly.
"Yes, Teacher."
Embarassed grin, no explanation. Of course.
"You want me to come back so I can take away your book more?" I asked with a playful glare.
He still grinned.
Sharon came onto the porch. "Maw Soe Thay, do you need medicine?"
"No Teacher," he replied, still grinning.
"Yes, he needs medicine to make him stop being naughty," I countered, and we all laughed.

That question rings in everything. Will I be back? Will I come back?

Will I be back?

I want to be. I want to be.

But what God wills...and when...and where... is always best.

If I am to come back, He'll see to it that I do.

And He will see to it that everything is made beautiful... in His time.

Little girls come for a visit

Smiling faces... how many more times will I see them?

Try to resist that...

Story time...

Made entirely out of banana leaves... glasses. These kids amaze me.

He really is the princiPAL.

Oh, how I'll miss these girls when I go home....

Entrance to a church just out of Mae Sot. Went there for a wedding on Sunday morning.

Seeing that bride up there made me envision something similar happening someday.... But I guarantee that the bride that day will not have her head down like that. Not a chance.

 One of Sharon's students

Me and KuSuhMo

Sharon and little friends

 Caught me going for a walk... "Teacher! Teacher!"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fountains in the Desert

Hand lifted, eyes shaded against the burning sun.

Tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth, vision blurs.

Mirages appear, dizziness sets in.

And the weary traveler falls to the ground in despair, crying out, “How long, O Lord?”

This weary traveler is me.
This desert is my wilderness.

I once thought that we all go through “wilderness experiences.”

The children of Israel went through one; Elijah went through one… and really, can we expect any less?

But at the same time, I must confess I was wrong.

We do not go through separate wilderness experiences.

We are constantly in the wilderness. Without ceasing.

An oasis rises to greet the weary vision at times, yes. We come across water every now and again. But it is only God’s providence and love that keeps us trudging, one foot in front of the other, toward the other side of this endless desert.

I sit in a foreign country, looking at the pain around me. A few months ago, I wondered, “How on earth could I stay?”

Now, I still sit here, and I look toward home, shuddering, and question, “How can I go home?”

Fears have danced around in my head with a fiendish gleeful abandon recently. Not just about one thing, either: it’s certainly more than one thing.

I sat on a swing past the chapel last night, looking at the stars, heart heavy, and asking God, “How could I take up something like that? How could I do something like that? How could I survive?”

And then came the unavoidable, “Why me…?”

With tears in my eyes, I asked it. “Why me, Lord? Why does it have to be my heart, my family, my life? Why?”

I look around at these precious children. They’ve been asking me if I’m coming back. I’ve told them I don’t know.

The problem is, that now I do know.

Unless God intervenes, I likely will never be back. I’ll carry with me a heart full of memories and lessons learned, and the changes will remain in place.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be back.

The wilderness looks endless, stretching on in painful, weary, lonely miles.

A smile does crack my sorrow: I must certainly wonder what the Lord is doing now. Suppositions fill my mind, and I can almost already see wisdom in what’s been happening: but then, I don’t know.

And the smile fades…

I don’t want to face the music I know I’ll have to in less than four weeks.

I don’t want to face another long stretch of wilderness.

But now I realize it will never come to an end. It will never end. This wilderness will continue until my life ends.

However, there’s always a rainbow in the rainstorm. And I found it just this morning.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 

“I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 

“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, [and] the pine, and the box tree together: 

“That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it” (Isaiah 41:17-20).

This almost needs no comment. And as I read it, my heart filled with wonder, with a sorrowful sort of joy.

I don’t know where this wilderness will take me. I can’t see the thorns in the path.

But I do know, that in my need, the Lord will open fountains in the desert. He will perform a miracle to aid me on my journey.

He will walk with me, holding my hand. He will be there, even if no one is.

And He will do this that everyone who sees my life may know that He is God in heaven, and that He is a God of love.

I've been sitting on the porch for a little while, working on a blog post and talking with family members. I was enjoying my peace when a gaggle of little girls popped over the rim of the hill. 

They came running pell-mell to the stairs, and bestowed me with the biggest bouquet I've ever received for anything, and then told me they needed band-aids. I didn't really feel like getting up, but no one else is home. 

Grab the basket, fix a few minor problems and tell them ten times that certain things aren't really a problem. It's an old routine.

Before they all leave, one by one, they attack me with hugs. Off they go...

And  then one little one comes back. She's fairly new--just became a dorm student recently. She comes back, throws her arms around me and hugs me like there's no tomorrow...and then plants a kiss on my cheek.

Another little one was watching, and as she watched me accept the kiss with a smile, her eyes lit up. she came running back and hugged me, and almost timidly kissed my cheek as well. They ran off, calling back, "Ti lah tha lah kee!" (See you later!)

I'm sitting on the porch again. My cheek is still warm.

Less than four weeks left. Less than four weeks....and I may never experience such a thing again.

My heart grows heavy in an instant, but then takes courage again.

Whatever happens to me, I know that the watching world, in some way, will benefit from it, if I go through it with dignity, love, patience, and trust. 

And no matter how hard to leave, how hard to go, it will all be for the best in the end.

God help me. For I can do nothing of myself.

And God help me. For I can do no other.

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Father's Voice

Fingers ceased to fly over keys, mind stilled. Eyes traced the path of Christmas lights just outside the mosquito net. And that's when I remembered.

"Oh yeah. I was gonna read that again..." 

For a moment, rebellion. "Why bother? It's old stuff: and it won't do me any good anyway." 

But then, a whisper that surely was not my own. "How can you expect Me to lead if you will not look through the door I am opening?" 

I picked up the computer, opened the program. I clicked on the right link, scrolled to the right place. I'd been here before, and as I saw the familiar words once again, I smiled a little ruefully. Oh, how different the circumstances had been when first I found this string of questions. But never mind: it was time to ask them again.

One by one, my eyes filled with each question. "Will it...? Are they...? Can you...?"

And, to my surprise, just like before, the answer came the same. "Yes... Yes... Yes..." 

To the end now, and I was puzzled. "Lord... what ARE You doing? Why can I still answer yes?" 

I looked back down and saw another line. He who spreads his case out before the Lord will know precisely what course to take when he is through... 

Memories flooded my heart; both recent memories and old ones clamored for attention. I went through each one, and began to realize, albeit slowly.

God has brought me on a journey since I stepped onto Thai soil. And now I had thought that where I was was where I would stay.

Apparently not.

The realization in my heart was awful. "How could I lay such blame? How could I call it madness? How could I...?" 

How indeed.

Conviction pressed down hard on this heart. The Lord seemed to lay a hand on my tense shoulder. "Wait a little longer, Child; the time will come in time... Be patient, be willing, and let Me work. I led in the past, I will lead today and in the days to come. You have nothing to fear if I am writing the story that is you." 

The words of a familiar song run through the thoughts. A smile cracks the seriousness.


I'm no seer.

I don't know what's coming in the days, the months, yet ahead.

But I am assured that no matter what, "my bliss will be more beautiful, the ending more sublime."

Again, I smile.

There is nothing... Nothing... like hearing my Father's voice.

"I cannot imagine what will come, but I know that I have made my choice. This is where I stand until He moves me on, and I will listen to His voice.

One of our little visitors, reading a book.

During midterm exams, the books get deposited in all of the trees around the school.

A group of anxious students. One of my 7th grade boys, Saw Ku Shee, asked me, "Teacher, exam?" I smiled and nodded. He groaned and I went, "No problem; you will do fine." Again, just like last term, he shook his head violently, proclaiming, "No Teacher! No fine!" 

He got over 80%, by the way...

 Adrina, Thara Timothy's little girl.

Never mind chairs; just collapse the table and sit on the floor. What good are legs anyway?

We recently had a group of 23 "gohlahwa's" here: Jon Wood and his crew of JFA people on a vision tour. They stayed here for a few days, shot video, took pictures, and did a bunch of other stuff. It was so much fun having them here.

Harvey: "Are you ready?" EhGuhNyaw: "Do I look ready?"

Some of our regular attendees up at the branch Sabbath school.

One of the JFA group: Kirk Van Buren. I was introduced to him on our front porch as "Christian:" whereupon he said, "Oh woe is me; lost and undone am I!" If you've ever heard the audio-enacted version of Pilgrim's Progress, this is indeed Christian. Sounds just like him. *grin*

 Landon, waving at Jon Wood's video camera.
Thara EhGuhNyaw

Daniel Hill, another member of the JFA group. We've had almost every Hill here this school year: Jim and Irene, and Daniel and Jonathan... Only missing Josiah!

Stopped at a lookout point to get some pictures...

Oh, these two. Daniel: "What is he talking about? You and me, related?" Jonathan: "Uh...."

Yes. They are related. No questions asked.

Cameras only tell so much...

Mu Nu Nu.

 8th grade girls

Jon sneaked up and grinned while I snapped about 10 pictures. The rest of the group had no idea he was there til they looked at the pictures on my camera.

One last lookout.

It was so good to see this guy again, sunglasses and all. It's been months since I saw anyone from home, and then one of my friends ends up on my doorstep!

Eh Mu Dah and Mo Mo Eh.

 I'll miss taking pictures with these kids when I go home... Only 5 weeks left...

A classic "Landon" pose.

A few 8th grade girls and the Adams family, who came with the JFA group. I think the girls were fascinated with the "little gohlahwas". 

 Mu Nu Nu asked if I could cut hair. Well, sure, but do you want it to look nice? Thankfully I've had practice at trimming hair before.